Villagers Protest in Tibet's Maldro Gongkar County Over Mine Pollution

River polluted by mining in Tibet’s Maldro Gongkar county, in an undated photo.
Photo courtesy of an RFA listener.

More than 1,000 Tibetan villagers have protested against Chinese mining operations in a central county in the Tibet Autonomous Region, saying runoff from the mines has polluted local rivers and streams, destroying fish and crops and causing health problems, a local resident said.

“In the past, our rivers were crisp and clean, and the mountains and valley were known for their natural beauty,” the source told RFA’s Tibetan Service.

“Now the rivers are polluted with poisonous waste from the mines.”

The protest last week at Zibuk village in the Tashi Gang township of Maldro Gongkar (in Chinese, Mozhugongka) county—the latest in a series of local demonstrations against mining pollution—brought no promise of action from authorities, though, RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“The county officials only became angry and refused to listen,” the source said following the Sept. 23 protest.

“Tibetan residents of the area have been appealing for help for the past five years, alerting authorities to the poisonous waste being dumped in the rivers and asking them to clean it up, but no response has been received,” he said.

“It is unclear whether they will do anything to mitigate the problem.”

Serious hazards

Mountain areas lying between Zibuk and the Gyama area of Maldo Gongkar have been extensively mined during the last few years, leaving “the mountains skinned dry and green lands turned grey with dust,” the source said.

“These days, you don’t see any fish in the rivers, and crops are damaged when this poisonous water reaches the fields,” he added.

“The pollution has created serious health hazards for local residents.”

County environmental officials have visited the affected areas but have “blamed nature, and not the mines” for polluting the rivers, he said.

Chinese mining activities in Tibet are being conducted with little regard for the region’s environment and have led to widespread damage, including the pollution of water sources for both livestock and humans, experts say.

Tibet is called Xizang, or Western Treasure, by China and has become an important source of minerals needed for China’s economic growth.

In March 2013, operations at the Gyama mine in Maldro Gongkar caused a catastrophic landslide that killed 83 miners.

Reported by RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.


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